How to improve diversity when recruiting – just like the Hammers!

I’m probably the same as you in that I’m very proud of the football club I support. West Ham have never really achieved much (apart from winning the World Cup – sorry, couldn’t resist) but we have led the way in many things, particularly in changing societal attitudes to certain issues.”50b6f05e-efc7-4d70-b430-32c0c0129334-original

One of those of which I’m most proud is our history in promoting diversity. For example:

Our Deputy Chairman is female (Baroness Brady).

We have a Disabled Supporters Advisory Board .

The club pays all full and part-time staff a London Living Wage to address social inequality.

In recent years, Diversity has become a hot topic in the business world. The reason? It’s because diversity breeds innovation. Innovation results in increased productivity and therefore success. It’s commercially beneficial and morally right to promote diversity wherever we can.

You may not know this, but in 1972, West Ham became the first team to select three black players in the same team. It’s an extraordinary thought now isn’t it? Clive Charles, Ade Coker and club hero Clyde Best lined up against Spurs in a game we won 2-0 (productivity was good right?).

Our manager at the time was Ron Greenwood who went on to pick Viv Anderson, the first black player to represent England. Clyde Best has said ‘“Ron was a pioneer in every sense of the word. He struck an equally telling blow to those who thought the colour of our skin was an impediment to our ability to play’

I love football and truly believe it’s great for society which is why I enjoy recounting stories like this. You only have to hear Liverpool fans singing ‘”Mo Salah, Mo Salah, if he’s good enough for you, he’s good enough for me, if he scores another few, then I’ll be Muslim too,” to realise the potential that the sport has to promote positive attitudes towards those different to ourselves.

So, in light of comments that came out today as to why there is a lack of board diversity – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-44310225 – how do we ensure that interview processes avoid such bias and that businesses hire people who, like Ron, see the ability of an individual above anything else?

Here’s some advice on how you can adapt your interview processes to encourage diversity, attracting a wide range of talent to your team:

  • Make diversity part of your culture. People will hire based on “fit” — and that often means “people like us.” Instead, if you build a culture where fit means people who expand who we are, then diversity will be key to your future success.
  • Prioritize the skills you are looking for before you interview. Agree criteria in advance of interviews. This helps you fairly and effectively evaluate candidates with different but equal experiences.
  • Disregard criteria that will promote bias. For example, a rigid guide to years of experience or looking for candidates from a ‘Red Brick University’ only to ensure a mix of candidates from different backgrounds.
  • Remove unconscious bias from the hiring process. For example, research shows that certain words appeal to one gender over the other. Therefore, whilst you shouldn’t exclude words such as ‘competitive’ or ‘collaborative’ from a job description, you should be careful that your not using too many that will only appeal more to men or women.
  • Change your hiring strategy to look for candidates in different places to those historically used. I remember a previous company I worked at 15 years ago (Joslin Rowe) advertised every role in an LGBT publication – the Chairman just thought it was the right thing to do.
  • Employ a diverse set of interviewers, it shows you do actually take this seriously and gives opportunity for your employees to take on duties that may not previously have been exposed to.
  • Think about how diversity is defined – be as wide and as inclusive as possible.
  • Use data and facts to evaluate candidates, don’t just go for ‘gut feel’ which will leave us open to unconscious bias.

I began this piece by telling you that I’m proud of West Ham because of our efforts to promote diversity. Whilst things aren’t perfect just yet, the club are taking active steps to promoting it at all levels and that can only be a great thing.

Are you proud of your company for the same reason? If so, I’d love to hear what efforts you or your business have taken.

Thanks for reading and Up the Hammers!

Paul Miller
SENIOR CONSULTANT – GOVERNANCE
T: +44 (0) 207 337 8824
E: paul.miller@hfg.co.uk

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